Fast-food giant McDonald's has launched a social campaign to send #CheersToSochi and connect fans with Olympic athletes.
Consumers can send personalized messages to athletes and teams competing in Sochi by using the hashtag #CheersToSochi on Twitter or by visiting the Cheers to Sochi website.
Users must first sign up with Twitter or an email address, but can then send messages directly to a single athlete or an entire team. Fans can search for a specific athlete by name, country, and sport, as well as by Twitter handle. To cheer on a team, users select a country and a sport.
These greetings will be shared at an interactive display in the Athletes' Village in Sochi, where competitors can view the messages and print them onto ribbons to wear around their wrists, McDonald's says.
Athletes can use the interactive display to search for messages to themselves specifically or to their country or just for good luck in general, says Jeff Mochal, senior director of global external communications at McDonald's. The ribbons they print out and wear can serve as a reminder of the people back home rooting for them, he adds.
"It's really an opportunity to connect fans with athletes competing in the games," Mochal says. "One thing we've heard from athletes consistently is that there is not necessarily a missing link, but for [U.S.] athletes...it's difficult to stay connected with fans back home rooting for you."
As of January 29, the campaign had generated 954 cheers and counting, according to the website, but Mochal expects to see an uptick with the opening ceremony, as well as throughout the games.
According to Mochal, "one of the cool aspects" of the campaign is that Twitter users who send messages will be alerted if their messages are printed.
"That's the magic of the campaign -- that connection happens. You can tweet an athlete right now and don't have to use our campaign, but there's not this verification it's been received and printed on a ribbon. That's a cool moment," Mochal says.
According to Mochal, McDonald's has some athletes under contract who will come to the display at some point to print out ribbons.
In a press release, McDonald's says participating athletes include U.S. hockey player Patrick Kane, Canadian hockey player Drew Doughty, U.S. speed skater Shani Davis, and Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan. These athletes are encouraging consumers to send their #CheersToSochi with tweets like, "Excited to be part of the #CheersToSochi campaign! Cheer me & other athletes with your personal message at http://CheersToSochi.com #SPON," from @ShaniDavis.
McDonald's is also using its own channels to push the campaign.
The brand has 2.2 million followers and 30 million likes.
"I wouldn't say we are targeting a specific generation or age group, I think we are targeting fans of the Olympics and because it is a digital campaign, you're already reaching a certain audience that is Twitter heavy, so maybe we're targeting [Twitter users] a bit more," Mochal says. "Twitter users are interested in the Olympics and are out there talking about it, so we see it as a unique opportunity. I can already send a Twitter message to Lolo Jones, but the cool thing about this is there's a chance [Jones] will come to the display and print ribbons."
One snafu: The #CheersToSochi hashtag is being widely used by protesters on Twitter, prompting McDonald's to post the following statement on its website:
"The goal of McDonald's 'Cheers to Sochi' campaign is simple: to send Olympic athletes and teams messages of good luck. We believe our "Cheers" campaign will allow fans to inspire athletes competing in Sochi who want to hear from home. We are aware that some activists are targeting Olympic sponsors to voice their concerns regarding the Russian LGBT legislation. McDonald's supports human rights, the spirit of the Olympics and all the athletes who've worked so hard to compete in the Games. We believe the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes."
McDonald's says its commitment to the Olympic Movement began in 1968, which is when it air-lifted hamburgers to U.S. athletes in France that were homesick for McDonald's food.
According to a press release, Sochi 2014 marks the 10th consecutive Olympic Games in which McDonald's is the Official Restaurant. McDonald's guests in Sochi will be served by the McDonald's Olympic Champion Crew, which includes more than 350 employees from across Russia.
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March 19, 2014